How to Lose Credibility in Social Media the Easy Way

Social media has made communication a little too easy, too fast, too dangerous. No, I’m not talking about inappropriate tweets and Facebook posts. I’m referring to the ease with which we can make honest mistakes in what we write in tweets and posts—typos and dropped words, for instance—and to the frequent absence of fact-checking.

One of the most common errors in judgment I’ve seen with PR professionals and journalists alike is the assumption of knowledge.

A common mental refrain: “Fact-check the congressman’s name? I don’t have to do that. I’m a veteran journalist.”

Another one: “Fact-check my client’s company name? They’ve been around for nearly a century. Everybody knows how to spell it.”

If you make a mistake in a Facebook post, you’ll hear about it instantly, and your credibility will suffer a (hopefully temporary) ding. And if you write the name “Andrew Weiner” in a tweet instead of “Anthony Weiner,” trying to chase that down and remove it from the twittersphere will be like trying to chase one’s toupee in a wind tunnel in March. It’s gone, real gone.

So my advice to you—and to myself—is to take it slow on social media. Think about what you’re writing, look it over and consider it engraving, not posting.

—Steve Goldstein



  • Charlotte

    Great Point: “Think about what you’re writing, look it over and consider it engraving, not posting.” Good advise to anyone and it’s just good old common sense!

  • Amanda

    Great advice. I can admit I’ve made a few silly mistakes on Facebook and Twitter during my time managing CNW’s social media properties. They can be especially embarrassing since we often share resources on improving writing, grammar, etc.

  • Trevor

    I take longer to craft a tweet or FB post than I do to write an email.

    BUT, this kind of advice is very old-school PR. Control the message! Don’t make a mistake! What will people think!

    It’s nonsense and out of date. If you screw up, so what. It’s an opportunity to be human, to get out from behind the PR wizard’s curtain and have a good public laugh at your ineptitude, which is very much in the vein of social media.

    Social media is not about control OR messaging, it’s about engagement. I’m not suggesting you TRY to make a mistake, or type thoughtlessly or crudely, but the fear of not screwing up is what keeps most companies out of this game, and thereby disengaged.

    It’s also what makes the social media work of most PR agencies about as interesting as dryer lint.

    Bottom line, nobody cares as much as you think they do, you’re just another tweet or post in a huge stream of information. You put yourself much more at risk by not being interesting than by making the odd mistake.

  • Steve Goldstein

    Trevor: I didn’t mean to instill fear. I was reflecting on personal experience and my own tendency to sometimes breathlessly use Twitter and FB. And it’s true, no one has come after me with a pitchfork and torches yet for simple errors.

  • Trevor

    No worries Steve, I wasn’t referring to you directly and I don’t think you need to instill fear, in my experience it’s already there : )

    Good examples of screw ups of colossal proportion, with one poor and one deft response:

    Chrysler and F-bomb

    Red Cross

    Chrysler panicked and dropped the ball, The Red Cross picked it up, painted it Red, and threw it back

  • Peninnah Gathoni

    Great advice,engrave stood out since mostly a post n a tweet seems less consequential as an email or an ad.

  • Travis

    I totally understand Steve’s POV here. I meticuloulsly review my SM posts mainly because I’m posting on behalf of my clients. And to give fans/followers any reason to “dislike” or “unfollow” immediately knocks my cred down a notch in my clients’ eyes.

    However, I totally agree with Trevor. SM is all about engaging, not crafted or controlled messages. I manage a Facebook page for a designer outlet center and have found that the Facebook fans don’t respond well to my posts aligning with the key messages we push out in other PR/marketing initiatives (mainly fashion). What they do respond to is center events, area news and prize giveaways (surprise). So the fashion messages that are constantly pushed via traditional marketing are minimal in our social media efforts. Engagement is key and I’ve overhauled my SM plan to encourage the highest engagement.

    Good discussion…thanks for the post, Steve.